Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Will It Be Another Year of Belt-Tightening for CPA Firms?

Are your team members once again concerned about their jobs? Are they worried that the roller-coaster stock market might mean another ride on the recession merry-go-round?

Yesterday, I posted that many CPA firms are seriously looking for people to aid in maintaining their high-level of client service during the first quarter of 2012. However, will the recent downturn in the market cause firm leaders to go through another season of cautious hiring and expense belt-tightening?

In a WSJ article titled, Memo to Staff: Don’t Panic, it notes that corporate leaders are looking at how they can jack up morale in the work place via town hall meetings and company wide memos.

If your team has been operating “lean and mean” for the last couple of years (or even if you have been adequately staffed) please keep the lines of communication open so that your team knows what to expect in the coming months. It is probably too soon to tell if you will change your strategy. If that is so, then communicate what you are thinking. Keep in mind that team members inside CPA firms are tiring of the excessive workload because firm leaders have not been replacing people who were let go or left on their own.

It seems the need for top talent never goes away in the accounting profession. Communicate that to your team and do it often.

It is also always important to deal with those who are NOT top talent, counsel them on how to become a star performer then if they fail, they won’t be surprised.

  • I always feel like I'm on a roller coaster, but I never want to get off. There's a certain high you're always on.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

EVERYBODY GETS A RAISE IN PAY

Do you give pay increases to poor performers?  I bet you do.  Sure, it might be fairly conservative but probably not that far off from what your better performers receive.

CPA firms tend to ask around (firms in other cities and states, usually in their CPA firm association) and check various surveys for the CPA profession before they give annual pay increases.

For a while (pre-2000 and up through 2007) firms were giving BIG increases to their seniors – – – because their competitors wanted them.  A senior could walk down the street and automatically get a $5,000-$10,000 pay increase.  So, an annual increase of 10-15% kept them at the firm. The rest of the team received an average of 5-7%.

Those times are gone.  Last year, many firms gave no increases and even reduced some managers’ pay.  Of course, partners took a hit, too.  Now, things are getting some better and conservative increases are beginning to happen.

Be careful to not fall into the same “everybody gets X% trap.”  When shouldn’t raises be a given?

I feature this topic in my November newsletter.  Did you receive a copy on Wednesday?  If not, click here to read this month’s issue and visit my website to sign-up for future issues.

  • Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life.
  • Michael LeBoeuf

Friday, October 29th, 2010

BEING MERGED-IN? HOW DOES IT FEEL?

Mergers, mergers and more mergers in the CPA firm world.

Just a couple of years ago it was about acquiring good people.  Now, at least for the short-term, it is about acquiring and expanding the client base.

Per John Ezell on CPA Trendlines:  “We expect the M&A market for the next several years to be very active due to retirements…..”

Have you been recently merged into a larger firm?  Even though it is all about the clients now (and yes, they are people, too), has the leadership of the firm made you and all your people feel special?

Did they orchestrate all of the on-boarding activities so that everyone feels included and has a clear sense of what is going to unfold during the next year?  Or, do you feel like there is a dark cloud hanging over your head?

If you joined the right firm, they have a clear plan, well-documented and well-executed for making the valuable people they are merging-in feel part of something extra-ordinary.

How do you feel about going into the office this morning?


  • We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.
  • G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

ECONOMIC REALITY FOR CPA FIRMS

There is a great article by Steve Erickson (named to the 2010 MOST Recommended Consultants) in the CPA Insider.

He gives you some great information to COMMUNICATE to your staff.  You should share the trends, which are disturbing and negative, but he also has some good news for you to share with staff.

Here’s just one piece of advice from Steve for staff that I often stress and agree with wholeheartedly:

Manage your time. E-mail, voicemail, social networking all take time and can be disruptive when trying to do work requiring critical thinking skills.  Block out time to devote to your client work exclusively. While at the office work with intensity and then go home on time to be with your family. In the long run this approach will make you happier in your career and also at home.

Most of you and your staff could really be more productive at work if you made the effort.  Are you productive or just busy?

  • Nothing will work unless you do.
  • Maya Angelou

Monday, June 14th, 2010

TOP PERFORMERS WILL LEAVE AS ECONOMY STARTS TO IMPROVE

When the economy improves, you will lose some of your top performers.  Since the fall of 2008, I have been talking with firm leaders about the importance of communication and caring in dealing with downsizing their staff.

You assured your Superstars that their jobs were safe.  Then, they watched as you dealt with the Middle Stars and the Falling Stars.  If they didn’t approve of how it was handled, if they did did not receive adequate communication on the “state of the firm” as 2009 evolved, they filed it away for future reference.

This week, according to Christopher Leonard and Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), people are quitting their jobs.

One sign of better economic times is when more people start finding jobs.  Another is when they feel confident enough to quit them.

The government reported this week that the number of people quitting rose in April to nearly 2 million.  During the depths of the recession workers were hesitant to quit.  Many clung to their jobs out of fear.  Not so much anymore.

Read the entire article, More Employees Jump Ship as Economy Improves.

How are you feeling about your good (great?) performers this summer?  Have you redirected SOME of your focus back to making your people happy, showing them you care about them and their careers?  Have you researched any of the new trends in mentoring and career progression, like career lattices rather than ladders?

What are you waiting for?

  • Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.
  • Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

ACCOUNTING TODAY TOP 100 FIRMS

  • It took $31.8 million in revenue to make the Top 100 this year.
  • The top niche service was business valuation followed closely by litigation support.
  • Many firms achieved significant growth via mergers.

As Bill Carlino puts it, “After weathering one of the roughest economies on record, the 2010 Top 100 Firms are making a gradual transition from implementing austerity measures, such as fee reductions, hiring freezes and in some dire cases, staff cuts, to repositioning themselves to capitalize on a slower-than-expected, but gradual, recovery.”

This year’s report also includes information on the regional leaders (they used to be covered by The Practical Accountant).

It’s good reading for all of you. If you don’t receive Accounting Today, you can obtain a FREE digital edition – click here. Reading and researching, educating yourself in best practices and adding-in your own creative ideas is a real plus for you and your firm.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – – Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

LOOKING AT SALARIES FOR 2010

The outlook is rather dismal when it comes to salaries in finance and the public and private accounting arenas for 2010 according to recent surveys released by Robert Half International and Ajilon Professional Staffing.

Ajilon predicted that accounting/finance salaries will decline 0.85 percent in 2010, while chief financial officers and treasurers will have it tougher. Their salaries are expected to drop 7.7 percent when compared to 2009.

Robert Half’s forecast is slightly better. They anticipate salary increases of roughly 2 percent for the upcoming year for everyone in all positions across large, midsized and small firms.

Robert Half notes, it’s not always about the money. According their survey, the primary reason that people leave their jobs is unhappiness with management, followed by limited opportunity for advancement. Compensation ranked third, along with a lack of recognition. CPA firm leaders, please read this paragraph again!

I feel like getting on my soapbox again, but I won’t do that far today. Just browse the archives on this blog for ideas on how to make your firm the cool firm. Recognizing people is cheap (and the polite/mannerly thing to do). Train, train, train your managers how to manage people (call me if you need help). Paint a clear picture of how people can climb the career ladder at your firm and let them know that succession is a huge issue and the owners are looking for their replacements.

As far as public accounting salaries and job opportunities, the outlook is still rather bright. Accountants are still needed. Although public accounting has held its own in the economic downturn, salary increases will be meager. Per Robert Half, tax directors and senior managers will realize a 1.6 percent boost. On the audit side, directors and seniors can expect less than a 0.1 percent increase.

Senior-level positions in public accounting firms will see the largest pay decreases next year while a slight raise will come to lower-level positions like senior accountants and staff, according to Ajilon.

Read the entire article by Liz Gold in the current issue of Accounting Today (12/14/2009 issue in their archives).

Monday, November 30th, 2009

POSITION YOUR FIRM TO IMPROVE IN 2010

Are you thinking about 2010?

Sure, you are thinking about busy season – January through April 15. I hope you are doing more than thinking about that period of time.

There is still time left in 2009 and at least until January 15, 2010 to take action on things that will make busy season better. It doesn’t have to be huge things, just take baby-steps but take them quickly and remember my battle cry: Do things!

Also, be thinking about what you will need to do immediately after April 15th to improve your firm during economic recovery. What needs your attention? Hiring or re-hiring? Refreshing or improving your brand? Designing a campaign to encourage former clients to come back to your firm? Re-engaging your people to build loyalty and trust? Where are the 2010 high growth opportunities going to be for CPAs?

Many of these ideas were triggered by reading Alan Weiss‘s Monday Morning Memo. I encourage you to read his blog. You’ll get great ideas on how to be a better consultant to your clients.

I am trying to lead by example. I am thinking about 2010 and how I can be a better resource (and consultant) to YOU.

“Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.” – -Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

ARE YOU LISTENING TO YOUR GEN Xers?

The following are some very important points in an article published yesterday in many newspapers around the country about how Gen Xers (your experienced seniors, managers and your youngest partners) are feeling during this recession.

  • They’re antsy and edgy, tired of waiting for promotion opportunities at work as their elders put off retirement. (If you have been in one of my audiences this year, you hear me STRESS this dangerous fact, your STARS will leave if they see future ownership in the firm being pushed out even farther into the future.)
  • The 32- to 44-year-olds who are wedged between baby boomers and their children, often feeling like forgotten middle siblings – and increasingly restless at work as a result. (I call this group, and many females fit in here, the CPA firm “sandwich generation,” caught-up in taking care of parents (aging partners) and kids (Gen Y fresh off the college campus).

A recent Deliotte study warns of a “resume tsunami” once economic recovery begins, especially among Gen Xers and notes that many executives were largely unaware of employee complaints unrelated to money.

Do you know how your valued, experienced workforce REALLY feels? As a CPA firm leader, do you find your owner group feeling smug about the fact that they don’t have to bend over backwards to please employees at the present moment?

Please read the entire article here.

It’s time to kick-up the communication machine and develop even more ways to LISTEN to your team – at all levels – during these trying times. Also, TALK to them about what the firm leadership is thinking and where the firm is going and be sure they see aggressive actions on continuing to grow the firm.

Now is not the time for leadership to hide in the bunker until the recession is over.

“If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.” – – Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

HOW MUCH FINANCIAL PLANNING ARE YOU DOING?

Many firms have dabbled in it for years. Partners became CFPs years ago with the intent of focusing on a new niche for the firm and providing clients with assistance in achieving their financial goals.

Some firms excelled. Some firms did not. According to an article by Liz Gold, in the first issue of the newly designed Accounting Today, “market demand and the state of the economy are drawing more CPAs into financial planning.”

Think you are prepared Liz’s article offers these five tips:

  1. Understand your prospects.
  2. Fully understand the costs of your products.
  3. Are you prepared to open a new practice in this economy?
  4. Have you considered a niche practice?
  5. Fully investigate the various types of business available to you.

There are pertinent comments under each of these five in the article. Click here to read it or look on Pg. 20 of your recent issue.

Also included in the issue is the Third Annual Ranking of CPA firms that have a financial planning subsidiary. The first year 89 firms responded to the survey, last year 100 and this year 132 firms responded.

Click here to read it on line. It is broken down into sections: 1) The Wealth Magnet Elite – Billion Dollar Club, 2) The $100+ Million Club, 3) The $50+ Million Club, and 4) The Rising Stars.

“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” – – Warren Buffett